The PLANET OF THE APES franchise has proved to be an enduring one: a series that has developed from a single film (which itself was based on a book), into a series of movies, books, comics and more. The 1968 original film spawned a whole host of sequels, and from the early days of APES lore, books have been a major part of the series’ appeal.
TALES FROM THE FORBIDDEN ZONE is an anthology of sixteen original stories, set in the world (or worlds) of the original film franchise. Contributors include Dan Abnett, Kevin J Anderson, Jim Beard, Greg Cox, Greg Keyes, and Bob Mayer.
There isn’t really a dud amongst these stories, and none of them outstays its welcome. That’s not necessarily to say that the reader will enjoy or engage with each of the stories equally, because even the original APES mythology is sprawling. The success of some these stories is dependent on the reader’s knowledge of aspects of the APES universe, which is perhaps to be expected.
Some highlights include Abnett’s take on the mutant psykers of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, with his introductory tale “Unfired”. Meanwhile, Keyes’ “Stone Monkey” suggests a lighter tale of what has been lost in the apocalypse, presenting a varied simian cast which expands APES lore. “Milo’s Tale” by Ty Templeton focuses on Milo – the “third ape” from ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES. Several of these tales focus on lesser-known characters from the original universe – giving the authors room to develop other aspects of the APES world. Mayer’s “Pacing Place” presents a lower key tale, of what could have been if the world hadn’t been blown up in BENEATH. Gaska’s “The Unknown Ape” probably best demonstrates the knowledge requirements of some entries in the anthology – demanding familiarity with the animated APES TV series. I particularly liked Beard’s “Silenced”: with a story structure that jumps through time, moving towards the inevitable silencing of a species.
I enjoyed every story in TALES. It feels like a fan tribute. That is no bad thing at all – every story is lovingly crafted, by authors with a real commitment to the feel of the APES mythology. If you’re an APES aficionado, this is a real gift.